Welcome back to Reign, the show that doesn’t care harder than any show has ever not cared! I’m lucky enough to be covering for Caroline at The AV Club for the opening few weeks of the season, which means the bulk of my commentary will be found over here, all official-like, for the moment. (Since it was the first episode of the season and I had to break down all the returning subplots plus remind everyone Leith is Gross Gatsby, it’s a monster.)
My unofficial commentary will remain here! And of course, our primary concern is this nerd and the queen who occasionally tolerates him:
Here, technically, she is talking about how they are unprepared for the spread of plague. In reality, we can only assume she’s making it clear how weird it is to even look at him after he shaved, as he studiously waits his turn for petty revenge. (Later, when he approaches the throne, Catherine motions the guards to let him through and he looks so gently happy about this restoration of trust after last season; then he joins forces with Mary to poison Catherine a little to get her out of the way, which he thinks is an awesome move to save innocent lives and which he’d better HOPE Catherine never finds out about.)
But the plague not only gave us a chance to rid ourselves of several members of the supporting cast in a single blow! It gave us a huge group scene, which means costume delights and a chance for everyone’s subplots to briefly intersect. (Since Mary’s marriage she apparently doesn’t need help with her clothes any more, which means the handmaidens cross with all the rarity of planetary alignment.)
Kenna cannot even believe she got away with being one of the better-dressed people in any given frame of this show. Behind her we have the usual Ren Faire assortment, a Children of Dune formal robe in dusty blue that I’m into only for the sake of early James McAvoy nostalgia, and then, inexplicably, there’s woman in white with an actual late-Elizabethan bodice and neck ruff, which I always thought would make some kind of tear in this show’s space-time continuum if it showed up, but I guess not!
These two have perfected their married-couple stinkeye, haven’t they? Nice work.
I can just tell this is doomed – increasingly-grizzled kind wealthy feminists do not grow on topiaries – but for now, I will continue to take a little happiness in the fact that this is a couple where she alerts him to shit that could become a misunderstanding if kept secret, and he takes it as a confidence that she feels comfortable telling him rather than berating her for doing stuff. Whenever he’s poisoned or suffers a sudden reverse of personality, I will miss him.
(Also, I like this dress on Greer; she often gets the “edgy” looks that no one can quite define except it once included an electric blue faux fur bolero jacket. This is better.)
I even kind of liked this one, despite the distinctly saloon-owner-in-mourning neckline detailing; clearly we’re looking at a Settled, Steady Greer, and she shows not an inch of skin. Nothing! The plague or Leith’s grimy, embittered touch might reach her then! COVER IT ALL.
And what about Lola, who spent last week giving birth to the baby literally nobody wanted on the show or off it, and spends the episode dealing with Francis throwing tantrums about whether or not he wants to be able to order the baby around in the forseeable future?
Jesus Christ, that is gloom in the form of a dress. When it moves it makes the sad trombone sound. I can’t wait for her to get back to court and soak up some of the fight she left behind. Remember when she blackmailed the Queen and is to this day the only person ever to get one over on her without bloodshed? Because I sure remember. I miss her so much. Lola’s anger at Francis this episode was some of her best stuff ever, maybe – she has suffered from being the plot’s punching bag (flirt with Bash, sleep with Francis, get pregnant, get married, shove his employer’s uncle onto the exposed blade of an axe stored neck-high), and if we MUST do this baby bullshit, then let her be angry about it. And frankly, if there were any justice, she’d outmaneuver Mary five times to one.
Which means she’ll be taking some lessons from this lady:
Oh Catherine, my Catherine. This is some “I’m the best Goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy. Who the hell are you?” Joan Collins mourning formalwear fabulousness.
At the AV Club I talk about the theme of inheritance of power that will clearly be big this season, but Catherine is probably going to win 99% of these fights, because Mary still genuinely doesn’t get that wanting to be good doesn’t mean you will actually accomplish much. When Francis is reported dead, Catherine immediately makes plans to be Regent for her son, and Mary’s just APPALLED that Catherine’s trying to hang on to power, and Catherine just looks at her like she’s a really insistent cricket and says, “I have only had one instinct, ever, and that is to protect my family and their birthright,” and then points out that maybe the country would like some stability after their plague, thanks anyway, bye.
When Mary suggests Francis will support her in her appalled-ness, Catherine can barely even be bothered: “He hasn’t been King yet.” This season is not interested in dudes in power:
At all. It’s glorious. (PS, this also reads Children of Dune to me; that miniseries absolutely loved revisiting this angle of the throne room to determine who was currently sitting where as power shifted, it was a nicely subtle through-line in a series in which very little else was subtle.)
If this power struggle continues, Mary might actually become something of an interesting character. The show is certainly trying to suggest that; her color palette is sill very black and gold (she wore a lot of that last season), but there’s something more sinister about all those shiny headbands these days:
There is a serious Dark Snow White vibe to this dress. Let’s see what you do with it, Mary.